11 Jul 2016

Observers say Nauru polling day free and fair

6:33 pm on 11 July 2016

The leader of the Commonwealth Secretariat's election observer mission to Nauru, Anote Tong, says polling day on the island has been competent, transparent, free and fair.

The mission released an interim report on the election for the country's 19-seat parliament which was conducted at the weekend.

Tong at Pacific Islands Forum in 2015

The leader of the observer mission to Nauru, Anote Tong. Photo: RNZI / Koro Vaka'uta

Mr Tong, who is a former president of Kiribati, said there was comprehensive coverage of all the polling stations by the observers and it was clear that polling was done extremely well.

Some opposition politicians have raised concerns about access to the media in the run up to the election.

Mr Tong said any difficulties with Nauru's media being state-owned and run were not major because Nauru's small community means campaigning is best done directly.

"The question that one would ask: did any single individual have undue access to the media at the disadvantage of the rest? My answer would be that I never at any time saw any of the individual candidates either on the government side or the opposition having access to the media."

But Mr Tong said there has to be media coverage in the future and everyone needs to be given the same access.

Mr Tong said the mission was working closely with the Pacific Islands Forum observer group.

The observer mission arrived in Nauru on July 3 and visited 14 polling stations in Nauru's eight constituencies.

He said the mission's full report would be finalised over the next two days to include the group's conclusion and a set of recommendations, which could further improve the country's electoral processes.

"We encourage all participants in the political process to work together to address any source of instability to Nauru's parliamentary democracy," said Mr Tong.

"The Commonwealth's commitment to Nauru's democracy and development will continue. The full declaration of results will be known shortly. I encourage all the elected leaders from this election to pursue a new chapter of political cooperation in ensuring your country's democracy is strengthened and development objectives collectively pursued for the benefit of all the citizens and future generations of Nauru," he said.

Mr Tong congratulated the people of Nauru for their high turnout.

Another observer team, this one from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, also said it found the election free and fair.

It said its full report will go to the Electoral Commission and the new Nauru Government before being released publicly.

One team member, Papua New Guinea's Boki Raga said the team was aware of some pre-polling environment issues, such as media access, voter transfers, the low number of women candidates, and the resignation requirements for public officials.

He said these matters will be addressed in the Forum Observers' report.

The Electoral Commission said the turnout rate would be announced on Tuesday.

Aiwo constituency was still voting on Monday after a legal issue closed the polling station on Friday.

The polling station is due to close at 6pm local time.

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